ON THE SCREEN

Meatballs still keeps you laughing

(US, 1979)
Directed by Ivan Reitman

Review by 
Lois Siegel
Many young people go to summer camp. Maybe you have been to one, but it surely was not as crazy as the one in the film Meatballs. The film stars Bill Murray as Tripper, the camp program director. Camp North Star is a boy’s camp in Ontario for 14- year-olds.

The story follows a young man, Rudy, who is not keen on being at the camp and lacks self-confidence, but Tripper expertly helps him to fit in. Tripper is also the head prankster at the camp. People sometimes wake up to find themselves sleeping in trees.  Fans of Bill Murray will love his performance. The first thing Tripper does is tear up the camp rules.  Delightful chaos prevails. With Tripper in charge, Camp North Star is different from other camps – for example, he announces Sexual Awareness Week and brings hookers into the camp.

There is Olympian competition with rival Camp Mohawk and it includes a swimming rally. To give Camp North Star an advantage, one camper puts a fish in a competitor’s swimsuit.

A popular camp song becomes: “The Food is Hideous.” And there is a hot dog eating contest between two very overweight rivals. The film is full of surprises and is always entertaining.

Although Meatballs first came out in 1979, it still holds up and will keep you laughing as everything goes wrong.

Filming took place at Camp White Pine on Hurricane Lake between Haliburton and West Guilford in August and September of 1978. cinepix.ca/film/meatballs/

Meatballs was directed by Ivan Reitman and selected for National Canadian Film Day on April 21 this year. Back in the day, it won Genie Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress for Kate Lynch. (The Genie Awards are now called The Canadian Screen Awards.)

The film was the highest-grossing Canadian film of all time in the United States and Canada, winning the Golden Reel Award Canada, which was presented at the Genies to the highest-grossing Canadian films.

I was part of the production crew after teaching film production at John Abbot College and Concordia University. Other Canadian crew members and their school affiliations were:

Ernie Kestler – second camera assistant, Concordia University

Rit Wallis – second assistant editor, John Abbott College)

Josh Nefsky – stills photographer, Concordia University.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Meatballs grossed $17. 9 million in its first 17 days. It was followed by several sequels: Meatballs Part II (1984), Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986) and Meatballs 4 (1992). None of the sequels involved either Ivan Reitman or Bill Murray. Only Meatballs lll: Summer Job had any connection to the original.

Running time: 94 minutes
Available: Amazon

 Lois Siegel is a photographer, filmmaker, educator, musician and agent who regularly reviews films for the Glebe Report.


Space Sweepers

full of cool people with tilted morals

(US, Korea, 2021)
Directed by Jo Sung-hee

Review by Kate Roberts

This Korean Netflix movie owes us absolutely nothing. It isn’t a franchise, a book adaptation, a historical reenactment or a remake. It falls somewhere between the dramatized movies of winter and the sparkly epics that signal the start of summer. Space Sweepers asks us to drop all expectations and enjoy what pieces we can, whether it’s the robot child with delicate sinuses or the space-turf environmental terrorist organization.

It’s a little all over the place and yet I’ve heard this story many times before. A team of rogues spends its days doing everything it can to make a penny. Eventually the rogues find something worth more than money and unite yesterday’s competition to save the day. This is the same plot as Guardians of the Galaxy, Les Misérables, Ready Play One, Sing, etc. Where Space Sweepers finds originality is in its details.

In 2092, life has moved into orbit and space trash is a fact of life. Collecting the floating debris is a job for desperate suckers like the crew of the Victory, manned by Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), pilot Tae-ho (Song Joong-Ki), strong-man Tiger Park (Seon-Kyu Jin) and the robot jack-of-all-trades Bubs (Hae-Jin Yoo). Their latest haul is an abandoned ship, but as they’re disassembling it, a white space suit pops into view and it contains a lost little girl. Um – who dis? While the crew tries to figure out what to do with this calm, adorable mystery, a news broadcast warns them that a terrorist organization has developed a new bomb that looks, sounds and acts like – you guessed it – a little girl. The crew shelters in place from their bowl-cut weapon of mass destruction while the girl (Ye-Rin Park) starts a new colouring project. Although terrified, the team isn’t stupid and sees potential for some quick cash, even if it means doing business with terrorists. They strike a deal and get moving, but as they near the drop-point, it becomes harder and harder to resist their little cargo’s explosive charm.

That’s the first half of Space Sweepers. It perfectly explains that our crew are cool people with tilted moral codes. They’re also dirt poor. In the world – or off-world – of Space Sweepers, money is everything. It’s the difference between living on a poisonous planet or farm fields in space. Or having enough cash to find a lost child. The story asks us to weigh money against morality so many times it’s like we’re being beaten over the head with a Dickens novel. Space Sweepers does a good job of pitting man against self, but someone on the production team had a wave of anxiety that a villain of conscience isn’t enough. There must be more! To fix that, they introduced a harsh environment that our heroes battle in every scene and threw in an ancient megalomaniac who is literally crippled by greed just to chase our good people around for a bit.

Space Sweepers starts with an ambitious yet financially unlucky crew and jumps through many plot holes to end in a united rush to save humanity and the planet itself. If you think about it, everything links together – but you have to really think about it. Two things that are mercifully consistent, however, are the graphics and creative world-building. I would not hesitate to see Space Sweepers on a giant IMAX screen. It’s not always clear whose banged-up box of a ship belongs to whom, but the speckles of space debris, orbiting highways, detailed streets in temporary living barges and grunge-style control rooms transport us to a promising new world. Even the regular lens flares add a little mystery to this sci-fi environment. What Space Sweepers lacks when it comes to focused plot, it makes up for in culture and design.

Most life in 2092 happens off-planet, meaning that national borders have all but evaporated. There are at least a dozen languages spoken in Space Sweepers, so it makes no difference whether you watch the movie in the dubbed English (which is actually quite good) or the original Korean so long as you turn on the subtitles. The only cultural difference in Space Sweepers is whether our characters live up in the clouds or down in the smog. This is essentially the sequel to the 2013 Elysium but with a lot more Pacific Rim inspiration. Space Sweepers gets a little lazy around plot structure but it steps up with pretty visuals and fun characters. It’s dumb but highly satisfying. Space Sweepers is a great warm-up for those summer blockbusters at a 5.5/10.

Running time: 2 hours 16 minutes
Available: Netflix

Kate Roberts grew up in the Glebe and is a movie addict who has been writing reviews since 2013. Her reviews can be found at plentyofpopcorn.wordpress.com.


The Rider:

a cowboy docu-drama by Oscar-winning director

(USA, 2017)
Directed by Chloé Zhao

Review by Barbara Popel

By now, many folks are aware that Chloé Zhao made history as the first non-Caucasian woman – and only the second woman – to win the Oscar for Best Director. Her film, Nomadland, also won the Oscar for Best Film, and Frances McDormand won for Best Actress. Nomadland is Zhao’s third film; all of them have been “docu-dramas” – hybrids of documentary and fiction. My favourite is her second film, The Rider. There are plenty of reasons why The Rider was on 30 critics’ “Top 10 Films of 2018” lists.

The Rider is a lyrical story about a modern-day cowboy and rodeo star, Brady Blackburn. Brady lives on the Lakota Sioux’s Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with his ne’er-do-well father, Wayne, and his sister, Lilly, who may be autistic.

This is where The Rider differs a bit from Nomadland. In Nomadland, the dramatic focus is on the accomplished actress, Frances McDormand. But in The Rider, Brady, Wayne, Lilly and every other character are non-actors who are playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves. Brady is played by Brady Jandreau in what is one of the most touching performances I’ve ever seen on screen. His father is played by his real father, Tim Jandreau. Lilly is played by Brady’s sister, Lilly Jandreau. By some sort of cinematic magic, Zhao and her cinematographer, Joshua James Richards, unobtrusively captured beautiful naturalistic performances from every one of the people on screen.

After Zhao filmed her first film, Songs My Brother Taught Me, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, she said, “When I saw Brady, who was working there, I just thought, wow, he has a presence, I think the camera is really going to love his face. And then I saw him training horses and I knew I had to make a film with him.” But she was unable to find a story for him that worked, until the day he was injured in a horrific accident – a bucking horse he’d been riding at a rodeo threw him and stepped on his skull. And that is the beginning of the story of The Rider.

The film opens with Brady gingerly removing a large bandage from his head, revealing a mass of stitches. Something a doctor or nurse should be doing at a hospital much later, but Brady is anxious to get back to his normal life. Except his normal life is now fraught with real peril. The doctors have warned him that he can’t afford another head injury. “No more riding, no more rodeos.” So being a cowboy, much less being a bronco rider, is completely out of the question. But being a cowboy is all that Brady has ever known. It defines who he is. What is he to do with the rest of his life? And how can he possibly give up being around horses? He dearly loves them – especially his beautiful horse, Gus – and is supremely skilful when training them. We watch him patiently, gently break a horse to a bridle and rider; it’s pure poetry.

Brady has conflicts with his father, who worries he’ll kill himself if he returns to the rodeo. Brady pushes back, reminding Wayne that he had always told Brady to “be a man,” to “cowboy up” in the face of adversity. Most of his friends urge him to get back in the saddle. But you can see that Brady is unsure whether he should do so. He has seizures that cause his right hand to lock in a clenched fist. His inner conflict is made worse because his father hasn’t paid their rent for four months. Somehow, Brady needs to make money. He’s a gifted horse trainer, but that involves riding. There are virtually no other work options for him.

The Rider is a beautiful, very moving film. You’ll want to see what choices Brady makes.

Running time: 103 minutes
Rated: 14A

Available on Cineplex Store, Google Play, Microsoft, Mongrel Home Cinema, Mubi, Prime Video, TIFF Digital Lightbo, and YouTube

Barb Popel has lived in the Glebe since 1991. At university in the early 1970s, she was introduced to the joys of film. She’s been an avid filmgoer ever since.


Whiplash

a riveting film that stays with you

(US, 2014)
Directed by Damien Chazelle

Review by Angus Luff

Whiplash came out in 2014, yet it lives on because of its relevance to anyone who has a dream and wants to pursue it, such as myself. Whiplash is probably my favourite film of all time; it’s certainly up there at least. It uses the power of cinema, what we hear, see and feel to its fullest potential and creates an absolutely riveting and electrifying experience that will stick with you forever.

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an aspiring drummer, looking to make it in the jazz industry. During Andrew’s time at a music conservatory, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a jazz teacher, sees potential in him and transfers him into his band. Everything seems alright for Andrew at first, but Fletcher’s teaching style is shown in its true colours when Andrew joins the band. Fletcher is extremely emotionally and verbally abusive to his students, including Andrew. He torments Andrew with his ruthless ways, causing him to focus more and more on the drums instead of his family and girlfriend. He spirals into this obsessive state as the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew gets increasingly heated.

Much like how Rocky isn’t actually about boxing, this movie isn’t actually about drumming. The drums could mean anything to the audience. The drums could mean sports or acting or drawing; it’s whatever the person watching it wants to aspire to. This makes the film so much more meaningful than just a really good drama. And because we sympathize and relate to Andrew, this gives us an emotional attachment to him and makes the stakes even higher. We all want to succeed so we want Andrew to succeed, but this movie asks how much is enough? Which it asks very well.

The cinematography makes us feel so many different things. When we are in the studio band with Fletcher in this stressful, dangerous world, the warm colours – the oranges and reds – play into the anger and hostility in the room. When Andrew is out in the open, able to talk and connect to his family, the cold but refreshing green and blue play into the relief of getting out of that tight, claustrophobic, terrifying room. This is what makes Whiplash such a compelling story, not just character wise but also visually; this a story that couldn’t be told through a book or video game but only through cinema.

Fantastic direction from Damien Chazelle, amazing acting from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, the music, the cinematography and pacing give this movie an energy that builds and builds until the explosive, show-stopping conclusion that can be read so many different ways. We know that Fletcher’s teaching is wrong, but technically Andrew got what he wanted and he improved. Andrew lost everything, but this was all he really had. He did have his family, but his family didn’t really care about his dreams. After it’s over, you start thinking about all the possible ways to interpret the characters’ motivation. You think about it hours after you watched it and then for days and weeks and months. If you start thinking about a film and relating it to your life even months after seeing it, that’s when a film succeeds. Films should make us think and Whiplash not only made me think, it made me try and get better and better at what I love to do. Even though I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this movie means to me, just saying that it made me think about my life is probably all I really need to say to sum up the power of this film.

Running time: 107 minutes
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.


Ed Wood

(US, 1994)
Director: Tim Burton

Review by Xavier Saikaley

Ed Wood follows the titular filmmaker who struggles to finance and complete various passion projects due to his questionable skills. However, he refuses to back down thanks to support from his friends, cast and crew and his lifelong idol and washed-up actor, Bela Lugosi. The two-hour film deals mainly with Ed’s troubles in making three of his most infamous productions, Glen or Glenda?, Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Despite these laughable and almost embarrassing productions, this film is by no means a straightforward comedy. It can be quite emotional watching this troubled filmmaker be laughed at and ridiculed. It also offers some inspirational moments and words of advice for aspiring filmmakers, particularly that you must fight for your vision regardless of what others think.

Johnny Depp as Ed gives one of the best performances in his lengthy career. As great as Depp is, the late Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi is even better. While the portrayal of Lugosi has been debated for its inaccuracies, Landau puts so much talent and heart into playing the once-beloved actor who has been reduced to an angry, desperate, yet sincere companion to the young Ed. It was this genuine and heart-breaking performance that earned the actor his only Oscar, as Best Supporting Actor. While the rest of the cast is very enjoyable, Depp and Landau are fantastic and portray one of the best on-screen friendships I’ve ever seen.

The use of black and white by director Tim Burton is done mainly to mirror the look of Ed’s films, with nice use of contrast and shadows. It’s a smart aesthetic and thematic choice as it reflects Ed’s world, where the colour is muted and sucked out to match the brutal reality of being a filmmaker in the 1950s. Burton makes the film feel like it’s set in that time period without exaggerating or forcing the culture and aesthetic.

Whether or not Ed was a talented filmmaker, he (like any filmmaker) would have loved a film that speaks to their dreams and passion.

Running time: 127 minutes
Available on Disney+ and Google Play

Xavier Saikaley is in fourth year film studies at Carleton University.


The Woman in the Window

(UK, 2021)
Director: Joe Wright

Review by Iva Apostolova

The somewhat unpretentious sounding The Woman in the Window boasts quite the star power. Featuring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Jason Leigh and, last but not least, Gary Oldman, this 2021 film is directed by the talented British director Joe Wright.

The movie is listed as a “crime/drama/mystery” which is mostly what it is. For those familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s work, the trailer and the title will take them straight back to the iconic 1954 Rear Window, right down to the camera in the window. (If you haven’t seen Hitchcock’s masterpiece, you should! While you’re at it, check out the 1993 signature neurotic Woody Allen rendition of the original story, Manhattan Murder Mystery, with Diane Keaton.)

The Woman in the Window tells the story of the severely agoraphobic Anna Fox (Amy Adams), who is convinced she witnesses the murder of Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the wife of her new, across-the-road neighbour Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman). As one would expect from a murder mystery, not everything is what it seems, and viewers soon realize they will be treated to a few plot twists and turns.

While I would probably rate the movie higher than the 5.8 it scored on IMDB, it is not Joe Wright’s best work. For the uninitiated, Wright’s Atonement and Anna Karenina, both starring Keira Knightley, are examples of cinematic art at its best. Wright has always managed to tell tragic loves stories with enviable panache and bravado, never shying away from exquisitely choreographed eroticism. While The Woman in the Window is not a love story, it still features the signature theatrical panneaux that Wright is famous for. If nothing else, the movie is worth seeing for its unique aesthetics.

Anna Fox’s Manhattan apartment is where 90 per cent of the movie takes place. The apartment is spacious and feels like a live theatre mise-en-scène with its clean lines, pastel colours and deliberately unnatural lighting. The viewer witnesses the unfolding of the character’s personal drama against the backdrop of a living space which is at the same time modern, old-fashioned and timeless. Amy Adams is on top of her game as the skittish, dowdy child psychologist who is afraid of leaving her house. So is Gary Oldman, who delivers a short but memorable performance as a menacing and potentially abusive husband and father. The talented Table 19 star Wyatt Russell, who plays the seemingly wayward tenant, David, deserves an honourable mention, too.

Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Rated: R
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Iva Apostolova is a professor of philosophy at Dominican University College.

 

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